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Tender Wars Erupts Over August Census Plan

With only seven months to the national population census, political quibbling, tribal interests, outdated laws, turf and tender wars are threatening to compromise the procedure.

After Mount Kenya pioneers requested a greater part of the nation’s assets last November, North Eastern pioneers yesterday raised a heap of requests, cautioning that they won’t acknowledge a flawed procedure.

“As leaders from this region, we are beginning to realize that history repeats itself. The government of the day has embarked on reintroducing an exclusionist approach to sharing of national resources, ” Mandera governor Ali Roba said.

Kenya carries out a census of its population every 10 years and the data is used for planning demarcation of the constituency and other boundaries.

The next one will be held from August 24-31 while the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will review boundaries next year.

The Council of Governors demanded a third revenue sharing formula between the central government and the counties, arguing that the 2009 census was fraught with problems.

Kenya’s population grew from 8.6 million in 1962 to 11 million in 1969; to 15.3 million in 1979; 21.4 million in 1989; 29 million in 1999 and around 40 million in 2009.

Initially, the revenue sharing formula for counties was pegged on population and poverty levels, but the formula was revised this year amidst outcry from marginalized counties, where revenue is shared depending on the economic strength of the counties and roles assigned to them by the Constitution.

This means more resources will be taken to regions with a high level of returns and responsibilities.

The political battles were kicked off late last year when leaders from Central Kenya called for fair distribution of national resources based on population density and economic productivity.

The clamor by Central leaders has sent jitters to their Northeastern peers who have raised concerns that the push by the leaders is aimed at influencing the outcome of the census to their disadvantage.

“We demand fair distribution of devolved funds based on population density and economic productivity.

We call for fair measures to deliver a credible census devoid of mischief of a ukora census of 2009,” Wachira Kiago, the Kikuyu Council of Elders national chairman, said on December 31, 2018, in sentiments that were echoed by a section of political leaders.

“We find this formula to be very unfair to the ASAL counties. The parameters are very subjective and discriminatory,” governor Roba said during the Frontier Counties Development Council and Pastoralists Parliamentary Group Leadership press briefing yesterday.

The leaders expressed fury at what they termed militarisation of the census aimed at smoothing their numbers. They faulted the moving of

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics to Interior ministry.

“We are not opposed to the census but demand transparency and the inclusion of international observers to ensure a credible census,” they said in a statement.“KNBS should be domesticated under the Planning ministry.”

“Everybody should be counted. Once results are out, we do not want to hear stories that we smoothen; it does not conform to the pattern and other nonsense shared in the past,” they said, explaining that in 2009 they were not counted and pointed a finger at political interference.

The Northern leaders accused their Central Kenya counterparts of using constitutional institutions and government agencies to drive decisions aimed at marginalizing arid and semi-arid counties.

This year’s census is the most expensive and biggest, raising eyebrows over the billions the agency wants to spend in the exercise lasting a week.

Already Sh18.5 billion has been earmarked for the census to be conducted by about 200,000 staff over seven days. According to KNBS director general Zachary Mwangi, most of the expenses will go towards paying personnel as well as acquiring more than 160,000 digital devices.

Despite the growing political contestations over the exercise and delayed procurement of the material, Mwangi said they were on course.

“Everything in the preparatory stage is on the course and the rest of the plans,” he said.

He said they are in a pre-enumeration stage of the census with cartographic mapping of villages in all the 47 counties, with piloting in 12 counties already done.

The procurement of equipment, he said, will be completed by May and by July hiring and training of personnel should have been concluded.

The next stage will be the real enumeration, or the census night, which is the actual counting in the month of August.

“The last stage will be post-enumeration where we compile the data, analyze then release the result,” Mwangi said.

The previous census was manual- where data was captured through paper questionnaires, scanned and then sent for tabulation. This year’s Sh18.5 billion exercise will use mobile technology.

“This will be a paperless exercise. Although we won’t use biometric data capture, we will have mobile devices that will be used for data collection. The captured data will be transmitted to a central server for analyzing and processing,” Mwangi said.

The digital process will help eliminate errors associated with physical human data entry from questionnaires into the computers, he said.

“The census is good for getting the accurate numbers and good quality data is key in enabling sound planning for a better appropriation of resources to address the needs of fellow countrymen,” he added.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is expected to use the same data to review or vary constituencies.

The law requires delimitation of boundaries to be conducted a year before the General Election.

The Constitution caps the number of constituencies at 290, but the IEBC can review to either alter the name or boundaries of existing constituencies.

It is will be the second review since 2010 by the Andrew Ligale-led Boundaries Review Commission.

Some constituencies without adequate population are likely to be eliminated.

“In the second review, there is no protection at all. It at means they will cease to exist,” a senior official at the electoral agency told the Star.

The constituencies protected during the last boundary review are Lamu East, Lamu West, Mvita, Mwatate, Wundanyi, Voi, Bura, Galole, Isiolo South, Kilome, Laisamis, North Horr, Saku, Siakago (now Mbeere North), Ndaragwa, Tetu, Murkurweini, Othaya, and Kangema.

Others are Mathioya, Samburu East, Marakwet East, Keiyo North, Mogotio, Vihiga and Budalang’i.

During the last review, the population threshold was set at 133,000 people, a figure that is likely to go up given the expected increase in population.

For a constituency to maintain its status, the population must be greater or lesser than the quota by 40 percent for cities and sparsely populated areas and 30 percent for other areas. The quota is arrived at after dividing the total population by the 290 constituencies. Parliamentary Investment Committee chairman Abdulswamad Nassir, whose Mvita constituency is staring at possible scrapping, said yesterday that pegging the review on the night will hurt his constituency which has the highest daytime population.

He explained that majority of people spend their daytime in Mvita and go to neighboring constituencies during the night because houses are affordable.

“Mvita is in the heart of Mombasa. Anyone living in Likoni, Changamwe all work in Mvita and goes back at night. Census is done at night and this makes it a bit tricky,” Nassir said on the phone.

“We are going to ask all these people to even spend with colleagues and friends because they have to be counted. We are going to lose the constituency itself yet they need the services during the day.”

Other than political interests invoked by fears informing scrapping of some constituencies, the census is faced by squabbles between state agencies and interests around tenders.

Additionally, failure to align the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics Act ( 2006 ) to the 2010 Constitution stands on the way of a successful census.

“There is no need to worry. The entire processes will be credible and free from manipulation or interference,”Mwangi said.

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